Report: FAA ban on electronic devices may be reversed


The seal of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is seen on August 4, 2011 in Washington, DC.


Paul J. Richards

The Federal Aviation Administration may be looking to reverse its ban on electronic devices during airplane takeoffs and landings, the New York Times reported.

Amid growing evidence that portable devices such as smartphones, tablets and notebook computers pose no real threat to aviation safety, an FAA spokeswoman told the newspaper that the agency is taking a “fresh look” at its policy governing the use of personal electronics on planes.

"With the advent of new and evolving electronic technology, and because the airlines have not conducted the testing necessary to approve the use of new devices, the FAA is taking a fresh look at the use of personal electronic devices, other than cell phones, on aircraft," Laura J. Brown, FAA's deputy assistant administrator for public affairs, told the Times.

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Such devices are currently banned from use doing during takeoff and landing because of the potential dangers they pose, Fox News reported.

The FAA has given permission to pilots with Alaska Airlines and United Airlines to use iPads in the cockpit in place of paper charts and manuals, Business Week reported.

Those airlines had to demonstrate that the tablet computers didn’t emit radio waves that caused interference with aircraft electronics, according to Business Week.

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The FAA has wrestled with the safety of electronic devices since discovering in the 1960s that transistor radios could interfere with aircraft navigation equipment, Jay Ely, a NASA Langley Research Center engineer who specializes in the issue, told Business Week.

Interference from personal devices is unlikely, Ely said in a telephone interview. 

According to Forrester Research, US consumers will have bought more than 40 million e-readers and 60 million iPads and other tablets by the end of 2012.